Christmas In The Kitchen Series: Annual Baking Fest & Recipes

This is a series my fellow blogger friends and I were doing for two weeks. (This is the second and final week.) We are sharing recipes and also doing giveaways. Here are their blogs–I’ll update with their giveaway links and their recipes/traditions when they are posted today:

(Please note: You must put the giveaway entries for these on their blogs to be counted.)

Moms By Heart– Cookie Cutters Giveaway HERE
Coupon Gal – A Christmas Story DVD Giveaway HERE (I love that movie!)
A Thrifty Mom – 20 Coupon Inserts Giveaway to Help w/ Baking Costs HERE
Give Me Neither -Matching Set of Aprons Giveaway HERE
Couponing For 4 – Non-stick Cake-scicle Pan Giveaway HERE (looks so cool!)

A couple of years ago, my sister, BIL and I were supposed to go downtown Chicago to the Christkindlmarket. They had already scheduled the day off but as it got closer, they were predicting cold and rainy weather. We decided that instead, we’d bake cookies. Lots of them! My kitchen was filled with ingredients and plans of so many different recipes. About halfway through I realized…I had been way too ambition!

We were all exhausted and there was so much left to do. Each year, I learn a little bit more about how much is too much! :) Unfortunately this year, I had to do most of the baking myself. But, partway through, my almost 3 year old son decided to join me. We had so much fun together, despite how much work was involved. Here he is after enjoying the spoon from the brownie batter: (and being a goof when I said, “Smile Big!”)

What do I do with everything when I’m done? My hubby works for a smaller company so I make each of his co-workers their own little “goodie bag” of treats. They are all so sweet in that they’ll take it home to share with their spouses and family. I also try to reserve a plate to take over to our librarians. But they are projecting very cold temperatures today so I’m thinking it might not happen.

Every year I look forward to the annual baking fest. I’ll have to plan better next year so I can make sure my family can join me again. But it was fun having one-on-one time with my son. Here’s what we ended up with:

Brownies, Rice Krispies Treats, Sugar Cookies, Oatmeal/Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Covered Pretzels, “People Puppy Chow” and Cupcakes. I had planned on making Peanut Butter Blossoms but ran out of energy. So those will go in tomorrow or Friday. :) Here’s the recipe for those:

Peanut Butter Blossoms

1/2 Cup of Shortening
1/2 cup Peanut Butter
1/2 cup firmly packed Brown Sugar
1/2 cup granulated Sugar
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. Milk
1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1 Tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Salt
Sugar (to roll them in)
48 Hershey’s Kisses, unwrapped

Cream together shortening, peanut butter, brown sugar and 1/2 cup of sugar. Add egg milk and vanilla. Beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture. Beat on low speed until stiff dough forms. Shape into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bakes 10-12 minutes (or until brown) in an oven at 375 degrees. Top each cookie immediately with an unwrapped chocolate piece, pressing down firmly so that cookie cracks around the edge. Remove cookies from cookie sheets to cool.

This recipe came from an insert in the December 2009 Food TV Magazine. But it’s been around for years.

People Puppy Chow

Melt together 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup chocolate chips and 1 stick of butter in a medium saucepan. You’ll have to stir frequently or it will burn on you quick. I’d recommend keeping it on a low to medium heat. Once melted, pour over Crispix cereal. (1-12oz. box) Stir the cereal mixture (gently or you’ll break them) until all the cereal is covered. Immediately put it into a brown paper bag that’s been filled with 1/2 bag (1lb.) of powdered sugar. Close up the bag and shake it until the sugar covers the cereal.

This recipe was given to me years ago by a co-worker but it’s been around for years.

White Chocolate Covered Pretzels

I usually use the Baker’s white chocolate squares. Follow melting directions on bag. You simply just add the pretzels to the chocolate and cover them. But I wanted to share a tip my BIL taught me. Use two forks to hold onto the ends of them after the pretzels are covered. This allows the chocolate to drain from the holes in the pretzels.

I have to add that the Rice Krispies Treats that I made—I used the caramel & vanilla marshmallows that just came out. They gave them just a touch of caramel flavor and were actually pretty good. There should be instructions for how to make these on most marshmallow bags or on the back of cereal box.

Everything else, I took the shortcut route this year and used pre-made mixes. :) It’s the only way I could get everything done by myself. But next year, I might see if my friends want to do a cookie exchange and each make a few dozen cookies to swap. I’ve always wanted to do that.

Here’s hoping you are able to get in some baking time this year, too!

Frugal Birthday Cakes

I happened to see an ad when I was on and I’m glad that I clicked through. It brought me to the Betty Crocker Cake Pages. And they are sooo cute! The first one that caught my eye was the Fire Engine Cake, as my son is big into trucks right now. There’s a how-to video on how to make it HERE.

I’m not that great with the hands-on stuff but this one looked like one that I might be able to handle! And the reviews for it were 5 stars.

There’s also one for a Panda Bear Cake that got good reviews. I did watch that one and it looked fairly simple, too. (You can always make it into a Teddy Bear Cake w/ Brown & Tan frosting colors.)

I’m always astounded by how expensive these “cutesy” type of cakes are in the stores. These two recipes that I watched looked like some basic ingredients that if you watch for sales ahead of time, you could probably make these fairly cheap. (Such as cake mix, frosting, candy items and using a Ziploc bag for “piping” the frosting.)

There were more cakes HERE.

These aren’t affiliate/sponsor links but just something I ran across and thought I’d share. I’m really debating making the Fire Truck one now!!

Simple Recipe: Doritos Taco Salad

Is your Doritos bag down to the broken crumbled chips? Don’t throw them out! They’ll be perfect for this recipe!

You’ll need:
Doritos, broken up in pieces
Chopped Lettuce
Chopped Tomatoes (Cut grape tomatoes work great!)
Sliced Olives
Ranch Salad Dressing

Now this recipe really doesn’t have “set amounts.” You just basically add equal parts of everything. For the Ranch Salad Dressing, gradually add it little by little until everything is nicely covered. It’s mostly a personal preference recipe. You can always add hamburger or onions or whatever you like to it.

I prefer this dish after it’s set/chilled just for a little bit, so everything is blended and settled. I whipped up a batch this weekend, as I had just a little bit of all the ingredients left. It was a perfect combo to our pasta! It’s a great dish to make if you’ve had Tacos and have just a little bit of everything left. Also, I used Bacon Ranch Dressing and it tasted just as good!


Simple Recipe: Betty Crocker Piggy Pancakes

I found this through a Betty Crocker e-newsletter and thought they were too cute to not share! Here is the direct link to the site and here’s their recipe:

2 cups Original Bisquick® mix
1 cup milk
2 eggs
Fresh blueberries, chocolate chips or raisins

1. Heat griddle or skillet over medium-high heat or to 375°F. In medium bowl, stir Bisquick mix, milk and eggs until blended.
2. Lightly oil griddle. For each pig face, pour slightly less than 1/4 cup batter onto hot oiled griddle. Pour scant tablespoonful batter onto griddle for snout and another scant tablespoonful for ears.
3. Cook pancakes until edges are dry. Turn; cook until golden.
4. To serve, place large pancakes on individual serving plates. Place 1 small pancake in center of each face for snout; poke 2 holes for nostrils with end of handle of wooden spoon. Cut second small pancake in half for ears; place at top of face. Use blueberries for eyes.

I can see these being especially popular with the toddler-aged kids. Nathan is getting to that picky-eater phase and I bet these would make him love pancakes all the more!


Family Fun: Blackboard Cupcakes

I was emailed this recipe from Family Fun magazine and thought it was too cute not to share. I also thought it might be useful for those of you with school kids who wanted to bring in treats to share.

The recipe is quite simple, including these ingredients:
Yellow, green, and white frosting
Red Skittles or M&M’s
Small plastic bag
Rubber band or twist tie
Chocolate-covered graham crackers
White Good & Plenty candies

For the recipe, click here. If you want to get their newsletter in your email inbox, click here to register. It’s FREE and they have such great kid ideas/craft/recipes. (They also send discounts/coupons from time-to-time.)

Happy Crafting!

Simple Recipe: Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken

This recipe is as easy as ordering take-out. You only have to do it 5 hours sooner! :)

4 boneless-skinless chicken breasts
1 16oz. jar of your favorite salsa
2 cups shredded cheese (optional)
rice (optional)

Add chicken breasts to the slowcooker. Pour salsa over the top. Cook on low for 5-8hrs, until tender, but not dry. Top with shredded cheese, upon serving. Serve on a bed of rice. (I say these are optional because I didn’t use either and it still tasted great!)

When I made this, I served it with a side of Fiesta Sides:Mexican Rice. It was a REALLY good combo. The nice thing about this recipe is if you haven’t thought about supper until lunchtime, you can still make it. I only had to cook mine for the 5hr timeframe.

I found this recipe in the book: Fix it And Forget it: 5 Ingredient Favorites. I’ve only got as far as making about 5 recipes from it but so far, I like it! The great thing is, with only 5 ingredients or less, each recipe is usually grocery-budget-friendly! But like with all recipe books, I recommend that you browse through them at the library or bookstore before buying to make sure it’s your style.

Happy Cooking!

Dash & Dine: Pizza Pockets

Since there are only the three of us (Nathan eating as much as 1/2 a person), we always seem to have spaghetti sauce left over. Sure, we try to have pasta a few times for each jar but you get to the point where you can only eat so much of it! We also seem to have black olives and cheese left over from tacos. If I am not paying attention to what’s in the fridge, I’ll sadly have to throw these out!

Since I’ve become a big fan of my sandwich maker machine, I thought I’d try to make some pizza pockets for Nathan and I with these leftovers. (We would usually try to make “mini-pizzas” on English Muffins but we don’t seem to eat enough of them to make it worth the extra cost.) I wasn’t sure if the spaghetti sauce would make the bread too soggy but it worked, and tasted great!

Shredded Cheese
Spaghetti Sauce
Black Olives
Pepperoni Slices (if you have them-they keep in the fridge for quite awhile!)

Simply stack the ingredients on your bread and top with an extra layer of cheese. The sandwiches are great, as the sides seal and the toppings don’t fall out as much.

So if you have some leftovers, try to think of a creative way to make a new sandwich pocket! If you come up with a good one, make sure to leave it in the comments for us!